Step Afrika! to bring unique dance style to MC

It isn’t every day that a Broadway caliber act performs in the Mid-Ohio Valley but the Gathering Place at Marietta College will play host on Sunday as Step Afrika! comes to town.

Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping, a percussive dance where the performer uses their whole body as an instrument. It began in 1994 as an exchange program with the Soweto Dance Theatre of Johannesburg, South Africa and has expanded to become an international touring company presenting performances, residencies and workshops worldwide.

“We were able to see them perform at a National Association of Campus Activities convention in Kentucky and the students that went with us were just so intrigued,” said Katie Simms, assistant director of Fourth Street Housing, a division of Student Life.

The company promotes an appreciation for stepping as a contemporary dance genre and its use as an educational, motivational and healthy tool for young people, according to its website. Step Afrika! accomplishes this mission through arts education activities, international cultural exchange programs and performances.

“Step Afrika! transforms the theater into a space where everyone can make music and dance,” said C. Brian Williams, founder and executive director, in a statement. “The world is Step Afrika!’s favorite stage and the company enjoys performing everywhere from opera houses to community centers.”

Over the past 19 years Step Afrika! has grown to become one of the top 10 African American dance companies in the U.S. and the largest African American led arts organization in Washington D.C. Each year, the company performs in 10 countries for more than 50,000 people and touches 23,000 youth through its arts education programs.

Nkenge Friday is the associate dean of students and coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She started in the position in January after spending time in Washington D.C., though it wasn’t much of a culture shock for her to relocate to Marietta.

“I was born in Mississippi and my husband is in the military so I have traveled quite a bit and have lived in smaller communities than Marietta. But I’m getting comfortable in the job and in the community … I think it’s important to bring different aspects of who Marietta College is to the community,” she said. “I’ve heard great things about Step Afrika! and that they are extremely entertaining.”

Young people will have an opportunity to get involved when the troupe visits.

“They bring the kids up and teach them to dance,” Simms said. “It’s just very eye-catching and show-stopping and I think it will be good for the community and the campus to learn about the history.”

There is no admission for the show and the public is invited to visit the Gathering Place at 4:30 p.m.

Parking is available in the adjacent lot and also at the Hermann Fine Arts Center.

If you go

¯ What: Step Afrika

¯ Where: The Gathering Place at Marietta College, 127 N. Seventh St.

¯ When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

¯ Cost: Free and open to the public.

¯ For information: stepafrika.org

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